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Find Bass Guitar Tabs

If you are a musician or are studying music, you should learn to read music. Think of music as a communicating language and the musical notation as its written form. By knowing how to sight read music, you will open yourself to more musical possibilities. Standard musical notation gives the rhythm, time values and pitch of the music piece, and you will be able to play new music by reading the score, even if you haven't actually heard the music.

Another and comparatively more easy way of music notation is Tablature which is the type of music notation that is most commonly used on the Internet. Tab, as it is known for short, does not use symbols like in standard music notations. Instead, ASCII characters and numbers are used, which really makes life a lot simpler. Tab is read, like standard musical notation, from left to right.

A bass guitar is guitar with four strings - low E, A, D, G - that are a pitch lower than the four bottom strings of a regular guitar. There are also five strong and six string bass guitars.

A large portion of bass guitar tabs that you will find on the Internet are written for four string guitars. You write the tab for bass guitar with four lines corresponding to the four strings of the bass guitar. The numbers that are written on each line indicate the frets that you are supposed to press on that particular line when playing. For example, the number zero indicates that an open string should be played, the number one on the low E string indicates that the first fret is to be pressed and so on.

Music notation often includes other information to make it easier for musicians to understand the music and know how to play it, and this information is shown in tablature in the form of extra symbols or letters. These symbols or letters are written between the indicated notes. Like, you might use 'p' for pull off, 'b' for bend string, 'r' for relax bend, 'h' for hammer on, '/' for slide up, ' \' for slide down, 'v' for vibrato, 't' for right hand tap and so on.

With a bass guitar, the technique of playing differs somewhat from that with a regular guitar and so bass guitar tabs come with additional symbols to accommodate the different playing technique. You can write these symbols on the line as usual, or if they happen to be the same as already used symbols, write them under the tab lines to avoid any confusion.

The thing to do when writing a tab is to include just enough information to make the music piece understandable and easy to play, but not so much that it confuses the reader. Different people have different ways of writing tabs, so, if you are including your own unique symbols, make it clear what those mean.
  • With a tab, you will know what notes you are supposed to play.
  • With a tab, you will know which strings you are supposed to play and when.
  • With a tab, you will know which fret to press and when.
  • With a tab, you will know when to use bends, slides, harmonics, pull-offs, trills, hammer-ons, vibrato, etc, and where to use capos.
  • With a tab, you will know about the tuning required for a particular music piece. Usually, if the tuning is not mentioned in the tablature, you can understand that normal tuning is required.
  • With a tab, you will know about the required rhythm for the music piece. That is, you will know which are the long notes and which are the short notes.
  • A tab will not tell you for what exact duration the notes must be sustained or played. You must decide this at your own discretion or listen to the song and understand what its rhythm is.
  • A tab will not tell you which fingers you must use to press the frets.
  • A tab will not give you information about how to strum and pick the strings. You must experiment and decide for yourself whether you should use upstroke or down strokes when playing and in what order.
  • A tab written for a bass guitar can only be read by a guitarist.
  • A tab is not an effective substitution for knowing how to read standard music notation.
The free distribution of tabs of copyrighted music is illegal. Most websites offering free tabs, although they cite the fair use doctrine, are not legally authorized to distribute the tabs. Keep in mind that all copyrighted tabs belong to the songwriters/copyright holders and you cannot use them without their permission. Currently, the music industry is trying to figure out an alternative compensation system, where distribution of tabs can be allowed and the songwriters are adequately compensated too.
By Sonal Panse
Bouquets and Brickbats